As an amputee, having an emergency strategy that meets your specific medical needs prior to a natural disaster is crucial for several reasons. Above all, it will allow you to be more self-sufficient, especially if you temporarily lose touch with friends or relatives. Being prepared will also ensure your prosthetic equipment is ready and up to the task.
We hope the information below will help you be ready during the storm season.
BE IN THE KNOW.
First of all, contact your local emergency management office to find out where the “disabled safe zones” are held and be sure to map out the quickest routes to them in case you need to evacuate. Also, if you undergo routine medical treatments at a clinic or at home, talk to your care provider about their emergency plans. Similarly, identify where the backup services are located within your area and outside. If you have a service animal, find out which local emergency shelters can accommodate it.
Create a support network that includes relatives, friends, neighbors, co-workers and amputee support group members. Once you have your list, exchange contact information with them and plan what to do in case of emergency. Since phones may stop working, think of alternative ways for communicating, designate a meeting place and let them know your plans.
Finally, if you are aware that a storm is expected, reach out to your prosthetist to schedule a prosthetic checkup. Your prosthetist will ensure your prosthesis is ready and can try and help you with any necessary last minute adjustments, accessories and advice. If you reside in flood zones and know you might need to egress in water, ask your prosthetist for directions on how you can help prevent water damage.
Check to see if your community has a special needs registry. A special needs registry is a database containing information about individuals in your community who have disabilities or other special needs that may need assistance in the event of a disaster.
If there is a disaster, those on the registry will be called and given information about how to prepare for or respond to the emergency, offered information regarding facilities or shelters, and asked about their well-being. Individuals on the registry can decide whether to accept assistance or remain responsible for themselves. Check with your county’s government to see if your community has one in place!
If a hurricane is inevitable, reach out to your support network as soon as possible for disaster preparation. The next step is to secure your property as you would for any thunderstorm. Store any outdoor furniture inside and secure any furniture outside that cannot be brought in. Unplug outlets you do not need and cover all windows with plywood or hurricane shutters to protect them from high winds. Also make sure your outdoor grill, generator, and car’s gas tank are filled.
If you use computerized prosthetics, be sure to charge them prior to any power outages. Remember to charge any cell phones, laptops, and tablets. Pack a charger in your emergency kit. Be sure to have basic necessities such as your primary and backup prosthesis in one place during the night in case of a power outage or evacuation order. A small AM/FM radio is often the most reliable way to get news and emergency alerts.
If the power goes out: Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. The refrigerator will safely store food for about 4 hours if unopened. A freezer will keep it’s freezing temperature for about 48 hours. After the designated times, the food may be compromised. During the winter in cold areas it may be possible to store food outside in a cooler (beware of animals scavenging for food). Have flashlights, batteries, candles, matches handy.
Preparedness as it relates to amputees:
If you have extra liners, socks, sleeves and other prosthetic accessories, gather them in one place. If water becomes scarce, rubbing alcohol is a good alternative to keep liners clean.
If your prosthesis is battery-powered, make sure to pack an extra charger and battery. Most electronic prostheses are not waterproof, so keep a large enough watertight bag handy.
Coating metal parts with WD40 or a silicone spray can help prevent water damage. If you have a cosmetic cover, click here to access special instructions on how to avoid damaging your prosthesis.
If you have a second prosthesis (or an old prosthesis you could use as a backup), have it checked, set it up with a shoe, pack it and leave it easily accessible in case something happens to your primary one.
If you live in a flood-prone area or authorities have indicated a possible evacuation order, practice putting your prosthesis on quickly and keep it prepared and ready to go near your bed during the night.
Store your emergency kit in a waterproof container as close to an exit as possible. If you have trouble carrying weight, have a designated helper who will bring it to your car or accompany you during evacuation.
Also important to keep in mind:
Keep important documents (birth certificates, social security cards, insurance information, deeds) stored in a watertight bag.
If you’re taking medication, make sure prescriptions are filled and containers are stored in a dry and cool place.
Store one gallon of fresh water per person per day for at least three days (you can fill a bathtub to use for cleaning, flushing, etc).
Write important contacts on a card (doctors, prosthetist, insurance) in case your phone dies. Note names, numbers and how they relate to you so that other people can contact them if you’re unable.
Have a few blankets, pillows, clothes, a set of house and car keys, credit cards and extra cash packed and ready to go.
If you have a service animal, gather supplies including food, identification tags, and proof of up-to-date vaccinations.
Tips for diabetic amputees:
Print out the information below and keep it in your emergency kit for medical reference.
List of your medical conditions, allergies, and prior surgeries.
If possible, a thirty-day supply of all medications taken by mouth or injection for diabetes as well as all other medical conditions.
If prescribed, include insulin and a severe hypoglycemia emergency kit (always check expiration date).
Blood glucose testing supplies and two glucose meters with extra batteries.
A cooler and re-freezable gel packs – insulin and unused injectable medications should be added when ready to go. Avoid freezing the medication and do not use dry ice.
Source of carbohydrates to treat hypoglycemic reactions (examples: glucose tablets, juice boxes, regular soda, or hard candy).
Notepad and pen to record blood sugar and other test results (don’t depend solely on electronic devices).
Tips for wheelchair users:
If you are using a power wheelchair, have a lightweight manual chair available as a backup. Show your support network how to operate your wheelchair.
Know the size and weight of your wheelchair and if it is collapsible for transportation.
Keep an extra mobility device such as a cane or walker handy or add it to your emergency kit.
If you use a seat cushion to protect your skin or maintain your balance, remember to take your cushion with you if you must evacuate without your wheelchair.